Top 5 Tips for Recent Graduates Writing a CV

In this article, we share five tips, you can use to make a CV that will impress hiring managers, even without professional experience.

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Knowing how to write a great CV can be daunting when you’ve only just graduated. This is a typical situation in life after University. You don’t have much experience to show potential employers, but you still need to create a compelling application that makes them want to hire you.

With these five tips, you can make a CV that will impress hiring managers, even without professional experience.

1. Write a strong personal statement

Your CV’s personal statement should sit just under your header and contact information, where it will be one of the very first things an employer looks at. Your personal statement is an opportunity for you to make a great first impression and draw the hiring manager in.

A personal statement (also known as a personal profile or opening statement) should include 3–4 sentences or bullet points that summarise your key qualifications and achievements. The goal is to communicate why you are the best candidate for a position.

Here’s an example of how to craft a personal statement for a recent graduate:

Recent University of Sheffield graduate with a Business Management degree. Possess 2 years of volunteer experience through Sheffield Volunteering. Worked with ASSIST to support refugees and asylum seekers as well as the Steel Valley Project to promote local conservation efforts. Recruited 78 new volunteers for the programme. Seeking to apply my dedication and strong interpersonal skills to help the WWF add new members and increase donations.

This personal statement is effective because it demonstrates the candidate’s experience and transferable skills that are directly related to the job they’re applying for. An employer reading this personal statement immediately sees the candidate’s strongest qualifications and will be interested in learning more.

2. Showcase your relevant experience

Work experience is typically the most important content on a CV, which can present a bit of a challenge for new graduates. If you don’t have professional work experience to include on your CV, you can think of other experiences to highlight that demonstrate your relevant skills.

Other relevant experiences can include volunteering, internships, club memberships, extracurricular activities, or academic experience. You can choose to include these experiences on your CV in the same way you would list work experience.

Here’s an example of how you can include volunteer experience:

Environment Project Assistant
Steel Valley Project, Sheffield, UK
September 2020 - May 2021

• Contributed to countryside management projects through participation in community litter picks, woodland and grassland habitat management, and repair of countryside access routes
• Canvassed neighbourhoods to raise awareness and funds for community projects, gaining the Steel Valley Project 48 new monthly donors and over 3500 Euros in individual donations
• Earned certificates in Chainsaw Maintenance & Cross-Cutting and First Aid

If you don’t have volunteer or internship experience to include, but took courses in university that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, you can include those courses as relevant experience.

You should also list relevant courses under your education section. Or if you have one or two key classes you’d like to focus on, you should list them in a relevant coursework section as you would your professional experience.

Here’s an example of how you can include coursework on your CV:

Business Strategy, fall term 2021

• Researched 4 different strategic analysis frameworks to determine the best growth opportunities for 5 current Fortune 500 companies
•  Won 1st prize in a class project in which our group:
       ○ Innovated a new business idea
       ○ Decided on a strategic planning technique     
       ○ Implemented the plan in a simulation over a one month period
       ○ Analysed the outcomes for each group to determine a winner

As much as possible, try to include numbers in your bullet points that demonstrate the outcomes of your actions. Including hard numbers will show employers that you’re capable of achieving tangible results and will be an asset to their company.

3. Highlight your skills

When looking at your CV, employers want to see that you have the skills required to perform the responsibilities associated with the job. Before writing your CV’s skills section, take a look at the job description to see what skills the employer is looking for. Then try to add these into your CV, where applicable.

You will need to include a mix of hard skills (industry-specific skills learned through training or experience) and soft skills (personal qualities that determine how you interact with others and orient yourself in the workplace).

Consider the type of work you will be doing and what skills will be most valuable in the position. For example, if you’re applying to be a UIUX Designer and you’ve taken online graphic design courses, state that in your CV. Try to include as many as possible in your work experience or relevant experience section, with descriptions of how you demonstrated them.

For other special skills that don’t naturally fit into your experience section or that you specifically want to highlight, list them in the skills section of your CV. Try to make them as detailed as possible and avoid vague and overused phrases like “team player”.

4. Tailor each CV

When it comes to crafting a really successful CV, one of the best things you can do is tailor each one to the specific job you’re applying for. While sending out generic CVs is certainly easier and less time-consuming, tailoring each CV will give you an edge over all the other candidates who chose not to.

Hiring managers regularly read through hundreds of applications, and they can usually tell when they’re looking at a generic CV. Taking the time to carefully note what elements from the job description you can include in your CV will make your application stand out and will ensure that the skills and experience you describe are completely relevant to the position.

Here are some simple steps you can take to customise your CV for each job:

1. Craft a personal statement that reflects your most relevant qualifications, with a sentence describing your career objective in working at the company you’ re applying for.
2. Re-organize your CV, putting whatever is most relevant for each job at or near the top.
3. Change your skills section according to the most sought-after skills for each job.     

5. Pair it with a well-written cover letter

If you’re wondering what else you can do to impress hiring managers with your graduate application, adding a matching cover letter can help improve your chances.

Using a cover letter to accompany your CV gives you the opportunity to connect with the hiring manager on a personal level, and to provide them with more context around your interest in the job.

An effective cover letter should:

• Introduce yourself and describe your interest in the role
• Explain what makes you a qualified candidate
• Elaborate on a few select achievements that demonstrate your qualifications
• Discuss your career goals and what you hope to contribute in your new role
• Inform a hiring manager how to best contact you, and thank them for their time

If you’re still not sure how to write a cover letter, using a professional cover letter template can be a great way to provide yourself with a blueprint as well as skip the headache of figuring out how to format it properly.

With these tips, you should be ready to use your recent graduate experience to your advantage and write a CV that plays to your strengths and impresses potential employers.

If you’re not sure how to navigate the job market, what kind of job you want or where you want to go in your career, finding a mentor can be a big help. Mentors can assist and support you in figuring out a career path, setting goals and staying on track to achieve them.

Once you’ve got your target positions, your mentor can proofread your CV and help you prepare for your interviews with some practice questions. Mentors are there to help you, so take advantage of it by asking as many questions as you can.

Author Bio

Corissa Joy Peterson is a Content Writer and Resume Expert at Resume Genius, where she loves equipping others with the tools they need to pursue their dreams. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies.

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